Everyone knows Mario. He’s become an icon, one of, if not, the best-selling franchise of all time. In fact, if you include all Mario media, it is the best-selling franchise. It’s a household name, and for good reason. Mario single-handedly saved the video game industry back in 1985, and has since sold over 600 million copies if my memory serves me. What a shame it is, then, to have only two confirmed LGBT+ characters in the entirety of the lifespan of the franchise. (And for those of you hoping it’s Princess Daisy, I’m painfully sorry that it isn’t. Don’t worry, I’m disappointed too.) I’m going to be giving a single score to the franchise as a whole, since giving two separate games that do pretty much the same things with the same type of representation would be redundant and wordy. With that much out of the way, I should probably introduce the rep.
When you think of Mario games, the first franchise that comes to mind is probably the Super Mario set of games. After all, it is the classic Mario style platformer game that arguably started it all. And it’s in that set that we find the first representation. Oddly enough, however, it’s the least “Mario” early Mario game around, Super Mario Bros. 2 for the SNES. The reason I say it’s the least “Mario” is because it’s just a reskin of the Japanese game Doki Doki Panic. The first major boss of the game, Birdo, is coded to be a transwoman, as evidenced by the manual. In the manual, it states that she prefers the name Birdetta, but that ends up largely ignored for the entirety of the series. In later titles, Birdo is entirely female coded, with no indication that her transness was ever a thing, however, in the 2008 Japan exclusive Wii game Captain Rainbow (how fitting) there is an entire mission dedicated to helping Birdo with gender-related issues. However, I refuse to touch on that subject for many reasons, one being that it isn’t a Mario game, and another being the blatant transphobic discourse it spawned.
The second character, and my personal favorite of the series, is from the Paper Mario franchise, specifically Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (which I will refer to as TTYD from now on.) In TTYD, there is a group of antagonists called the Shadow Sirens, a group of three sisters. The one I will be talking about is named Vivian. In the English and German releases of the game, all reference to her gender is exclusively female, however in every other version, she’s extremely trans-coded. The gist of it that her sisters refer to her as a boy, even though she refers to herself as a girl. She’s constantly belittled by her sisters, and the only person who offers her help, and even correctly genders her, is Mario. She eventually sides with Mario, and becomes an ally to play through the game with. We stan a true ally like Mario.
I’ll be running through my three points very quickly, as I’ve already written quite a lot for this piece.
I’d have to say, this is an extremely accurate representation on both accounts. Rampant transphobia, having to deal with all of it, being villainized. It sucks, but it’s accurate. But hey, at least Mario is a real ally while he’s beating them, regardless of anything personal. It’s just business.
A majority of the points here come from Vivian. She got a truly happy ending. Affirming friends, revenge on her transphobic sisters, and a reformation as the good person she always truly was. Unfortunately, Birdo is still seen as a villain and is portrayed as lowkey predatory. Yikes.
Again, a majority of these points are coming from Vivian. She’s a trans fan favorite for a reason. She’s accurate, has a happy ending, is relatable, and overall just a good character. I love her a ton. Birdo is just a blank slate mostly, not much to go on in the Mario canon. However, in the Captain Rainbow game, she has a pretty relatable story, so I let a few points slide for that.
Not the best, but not an awful score either. It’s just a shame that there are only two characters in Mario lore as representation, and both are trans exclusive rep. We want Daisy to be a lesbian. We want Rosalina to be a lesbian. Make it happen Nintendo. Give the gays what they want.